Jimi Manuwa’s service on the July 29 UFC 214 card at Honda Center was originally described by UFC President Dana White as an insurance policy against any repeat erratic misstep by former light-heavyweight Jon Jones.
Turns out, Manuwa has been assigned an opponent far more formidable than a stay-busy type.
The UFC announced Wednesday that No. 5-rated light-heavyweight Volkan Oezdemir (14-1), coming off a 28-second knockout of Misha Cirkunov in Stockholm on Sunday, has been inserted as Manuwa’s foe.
The 37-year-old, No. 3-rated Manuwa (17-2), a training partner of victorious Sunday main-event fighter Alexander Gustafsson, was watching just outside the octagon when Oezdemir tempted fate by getting struck by Cirkunov punches and reeling to the cage.
Then, suddenly, Oezdemir hammered a short punch behind the ear that dropped Cirkunov and moments later had the referee waving the fight over.
Manuwa, a strong puncher, could also be forced into title duty if Jones, who tested positive for cocaine before his January 2015 title victory over now-champion Daniel Cormier and saw his July 2016 rematch scrapped by a positive test for a performance-enhancing substance three days before fight night, experiences any similar peril this time.
Though the UFC has sought to add another title fight to UFC 214, with a women’s featherweight bout between champion Germaine de Randamie and Orange County-trained top challenger Cris “Cyborg” Justino being most appetizing, De Randamie has criticized Justino’s past use of performance-enhancing drugs and said she’d rather not fight her.